Cowboy Army Helps Taylor Santos Tackle 2020 Timed Event Championship - The Team Roping Journal

The 2020 Cinch Timed Event Championship kicked off a month ago Friday at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Some were slightly stressed by the fact that it started on Friday, March 13, but as someone who was born on Friday the 13 it didn’t bother me or my family a bit. As a girl who grew up working the chutes, untying practice calves and taking head ropes off at the back end, I have always dearly loved the versatility marathon they call the “Ironman of Pro Rodeo.” Running 25 head—five each in heading, heeling, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and steer roping—is the purest possible timed-event test. The twist this year was watching both of my sons doing Timed Event battle.

There was just starting to be some coronavirus buzz when we all began gathering on the eve of this year’s TEC upstairs in the Ropers Cantina, where contestants and fans are welcomed and back numbers are presented. As the world was starting to scratch its head over what to do next, I figured my world—Lane and Taylor—were at the Lazy E. That was therefore the only place I wanted to be.

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There’s always a brotherhood and a bond behind the Timed Event chutes. In today’s world of cowboy specialists, these guys get that they are an all-around breed that gets more rare by the day. For me, it was spectacular and so very familiar to see Taylor run to be in the box with Lane or Lane hurry over to get a steer’s head before Taylor nodded his head. Those two are two years and two weeks apart in age, and have been all but inseparable since birth.

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When it was all said and done on Sunday, Lane finished in the top 10 for the third straight year. TEC rookie Taylor was the $100,000 champ. Make that $103,000, including the Round 3 win. Wow. What a gift to get to see Taylor step off of that steer roping horse to give Lane the first hug. I’ve seen that special scene play out over and over all their lives. Always there first for each other. The camera crew caught that very moment at the 2014 College National Finals Rodeo right after Taylor won the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Tie-Down Roping Title his freshman year at Cal Poly. Still makes me simultaneously tear up and smile just thinking about it.

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At Timed Event’s end, someone handed me the TEC winner’s circle bouquet—which I’ve always seen as such a lovely Lazy E tradition—as I walked onto the arena floor. Taylor met me, we grabbed each other and burst into tears. His left cheek was busted open, bloody and swollen, the left sleeve of his white Ariat shirt was spattered in blood and a black eye was clearly on the way. That happened on his last bulldogging steer, and had Taylor anxious to make that last run of the day in the steer roping before that eye swelled shut.

Taylor’s big and strong, and all grown up now. But as all moms will understand, he’ll always be my baby boy. When I look at that strapping, broad-shouldered man, I still see the baby who sat up one day, then took his first steps. He skipped crawling, just like he skipped Pull-Ups. The day he was done with diapers he instructed me to bring on the big-boy pants. Taylor’s really just never been into long, drawn-out transitions.

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Taylor said “Momma” first, but right behind it was “Myself,” and he used that if you, say, tried to open the car door for him, back when he had to use his tippy toes to reach the handle. He slammed it shut, then popped the latch his way. Same with trying to give him a boost onto his and Lane’s first pony, Star Bright. Nope. Taylor reached up for the stirrup, then climbed it like a gym rope until he worked his way into the saddle.

One of the most significant Taylor Twists was his full-on refusal to take a bottle as a baby. That actually changed the course of my career, as it prompted me to quit what I thought at the time was my dream job at the PRCA. Lane breezed through babyhood as the mini PRCA mascot, thanks to Lesli, Jim and Shali Nichols (now Lord), who lived a couple short minutes away. Lesli, Lane and his babysitting big sister (and NFR barrel racer), “Shashi,” were in and out of the office, and I could run up the hill in a breeze for constant baby fixes.

Taylor, Leo Camarillo and Lane at the 2009 National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Gallup, New Mexico. Taylor was that year’s National Junior High All-Around Champion Cowboy. Leo The Lion was the first-ever Timed Event Champ.

Taylor, Leo Camarillo and Lane at the 2009 National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Gallup, New Mexico. Taylor was that year’s National Junior High All-Around Champion Cowboy. Leo The Lion was the first-ever Timed Event Champ.

Taylor, on the other hand, was having no part of being anywhere but seated on my hip. We tried it, and the pediatrician said he’d take a bottle if he got hungry enough. Not. This blonde baby was not about to budge. After a few short days of dropping my baby boys off and crying all the way to work because my heart was with them, I quit fighting it. I remember looking out my office window into the rain one day. I was blue, and at the end of my mom rope. Ty Murray called, I told him what was up, and he said, “Toots, when you do things for the right reason, they always have a way of working out.” He was right.

Lane and Taylor’s dad, R.D. Karney, and I quit our jobs, sold our house in Colorado and moved to my native California. With two babies, no jobs and no house to land in, it felt a little like jumping off of a cliff. My big brother, Blaine, repositioned the risky move as a leap of faith. Amazingly, fate stepped in and brand new, first-ever Professional Bull Riders CEO Randy Bernard called and offered me the position of PBR Editor in Chief. About the same time, Tom Winsor called to see if I’d like to be the editor of a little 16-page, black-and-white team roping newsletter called Spin to Win. Then, just before American Cowboy launched, they asked if I’d serve as rodeo editor and write a rodeo column. Thank you, God.

Taylor and Lane. 

Taylor and Lane. 

I told everyone who asked for my assistance that I was happy to help, and willing to work hard. But there was one condition: I had to work from home. The hours were way beyond reasonable—often while Lane and Taylor slept. But I wasn’t about to complain. In return, I had the privilege of getting to be there to raise my boys, which I recognized as a great blessing in this day and age. I sometimes wonder how many young women getting to work remotely in this industry today know that Taylor’s refusal to take a bottle helped blaze that trail.

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Naturally, my fourth-generation cowboy sons grew up with cowboy heroes and friends. It will always be such fun to think back on the 2020 Timed Event Championship, and I hope to never forget the ties that turned up before, during and after this magnificent milestone for our family.

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Trevor Brazile

Lane and Taylor grew up watching Trevor’s every move, from the cowboy parking lot to the arena. Taylor got to go play in Trevor’s practice pen before the Timed Event, where they did everything but bulldog. The Cowboy GOAT, who’s won a record 25 gold buckles and seven TEC titles, has always been so good to Lane and Taylor and me, and the calls and texts to Taylor and me during this year’s Timed Event were priceless. Trevor’s dear mom and my great friend, Glenda, even texted me with, “Just breathe, you’ve got this, Mom, Yippee Yippee,” right before the last perf. And that was after a much-appreciated, “Saying my prayers for your sons’ safety and success” call the night before it all started. Yes, Trevor comes by his raised-right class and grace naturally. Thank you.

[Read:The Opportunity of a Lifetime: Santos Joins Brazile for Timed Event Tune-Up] 

[Read: Adding Intensity with Trevor Brazile]

Ote Berry

One of my all-time favorite traits about my bulldogger boyfriend is his sincere love of helping kids. In this case, he borrowed back his old team of horses—Ernie and Polly—from the Kahla family, who bought them last year, and hazed for Taylor, Lane and 2018 Timed Event Champ Jordan Ketscher, who’s another brother to Lane and Taylor. All went according to plan until Taylor’s 24th run. Ote had to make a split-second decision about whether or not to bump that last bulldogging steer. Doing that made things a little hairy and caused my baby to bleed and have a black eye. But had Ote not bumped him, there was a good chance that steer would have gotten away. Thank you.

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Ty Murray

Taylor and his girlfriend, Laramie, went out with Ote and me for a Mexican-food dinner in Stephenville, Texas, one night a few days before the Timed Event. We ran into the Murray family there, and Ty told Taylor that he was thinking about going public with the picture on his fridge of Taylor pooping in my petunias wearing only a cowboy hat when he was 1 or 2. Ty threatened to post it after Taylor’s next big win. Time will tell, but the way Taylor towers over Ty (who called Lane and Taylor “the sh*tbirds” when they were little) these days he might be safe. Thank you.

Clay O’Brien Cooper

I was visiting with Champ one day just before the Timed Event, and Taylor’s name came up. I told Clay that I admired Taylor’s confidence, and gave him two examples. First was when he bought a horse over the phone right after his first calf kicked him at St. Paul last summer, then won the second round, placed in the average and paid for the horse within the hour. My second scenario was Taylor trading in his old truck for a new one with Houston Hutto at Bill Fick Ford the week before the Timed Event. When Ote and I pulled up to the Lazy E that first day, there was Taylor’s old gold truck. By the time we walked out that same day, it had been swapped out and replaced by a shiny new black one. When the Timed Event ended, Champ texted me, “Looks like Taylor found a way to get that new truck he needed! Congrats!” Thank you.

Tuff Hedeman

Tuff called me one night a couple weeks after the Timed Event to tell me, “Looks like your baby boy’s the last cowboy that’s gonna get paid for a while.” Coronavirus lockdown had commenced, and by then, the cavalcade of rodeo cancelations had come crashing down. Tuff is tough, but he’s sure always been sweet to my boys and me. And yes, my Lane was named after my friend and Tuff’s best friend, Lane Frost. Thank you.

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Colton Campbell

Colton just spent the winter with Lane and Taylor at their place in Stephenville, and he heeled for both of them—and also headed for Lane—at this year’s Timed Event. Colton was the all-around champ at the College Finals in 2019, and has been a good buddy to my boys growing up. Colton heeled at the TEC on his horse Chester, which Lane described as “Colton’s Special.” Special is the horse Lane and Taylor both heeled on at the Timed Event, after originally being my dad’s heel horse.

The “Colton’s Special” comment comes from the fact that they’ve headed, heeled, hazed and roped calves on both horses, and each also has a fifth event up his sleeve. Colton, Lane and Taylor all three jumped bulldogging steers off of Chester’s back last year, just for the boys-will-be-boys fun of it. Those were the last steers Lane or Taylor had run before the Timed Event this year. Taylor had never steer roped before getting ready for the Timed Event, and recently got the wild hair to add that to Special’s repertoire. Thank you, Colton.

Bryce Davis and Cody Lee

I laughed while riding along with Taylor to a steer roping jackpot—with Special in the trailer—the week before the Timed Event. Um, we don’t have steer roping in California. Taylor told me along the way that his way of looking at it was that I’d entered him and Lane in the tie-down and team roping back before they had a great shot at winning much. With $100,000 on the line, why wouldn’t he go run a few from behind a barrier for money just so the Timed Event wouldn’t be the first time?

I watched Bryce and his Hall of Fame dad, Jim Davis, give Taylor a few pointers at the jackpot at Thrill Hill Arena that night, and similar sportsmanlike conduct from fellow National Finals Steer Roper Cody Lee. Taylor told me after the Timed Event that Cody walked by him at TEC’s end, when it was down to just Jess Tierney—who won the 2017 TEC and was the reserve champ this year—and him at the end, and told Taylor, “Just like the Tuesday nighter in Morgan Mill. Don’t get in a hurry.” Jace Bland was nice enough to let Lane and Taylor ride his yellow horse, J.B. Thank you.

Cody Snow

Cody sent his horse Jet to the Timed Event for Taylor to head on. It was fitting for Cody to have a hand in this, as he’s another brother to Taylor and Lane, and roped with Taylor in junior high and high school. We shared a lot of roping adventures and laughs with Cody as they were all growing up, and it thrills me that the three of them are neighbors now in Stephenville. When the Timed Event was over, Cody told me, “I knew Taylor was going to win that thing. I’ve seen it coming since I was 9 years old at the junior rodeos.” I said the exact same thing when Cody won the NFR average last December heading for Wesley Thorp, though when he was a kid I’d have bet even more money on Cody owning the world record for the fastest time ever than the average. Thank you.

[Read: Eliminate Wasted Motion with Cody Snow]

Taylor Santos heading on Cody Snow's head horse. 

Taylor Santos heading on Cody Snow's head horse. 

Tyler Waters

The first time Lane and Taylor ever roped at the Lazy E was at Roy Cooper’s Junior World Championship many moons ago. We flew in, and Roy provided us with two horses in his truck and trailer, which was Lazy E-bound and driven by a young man named Tyler Waters. He was so nice to all three of us, but super cool with Lane and Taylor. There was some small incident involving Taylor and Tyler trying to ride one of those calf horses double back behind the building that resulted in one or both of them biting the dust, but they remain tight-lipped on the details to this day.

I do know that Waters didn’t just head for Taylor at the Timed Event on a horse he bought the week before from Kaleb Driggers. He also showed up day after day last fall to help Taylor get ready for his first NFR, and did the same before and during the Timed Event. Waters handled horses, tied on ropes and did all the same things he’d done all those years ago when we first spent time with him at the Lazy E. Thank you.

Leo Camarillo, Daniel Green, Kyle Lockett and Cody Cowden

Taylor was the 16th cowboy to win the Timed Event Championship since our forever family friend Leo won the first one in 1985. Daniel’s won it three times, and Kyle twice. Kyle’s also the guy who jumped in when Taylor needed a hand in the box at the National Finals in December. TEC helper extraordinaire Cody did work at the Lazy E again this year. California has always shown up at the Timed Event, and these are the guys who’ve led the charge. Thank you.

Hank

Taylor’s huge-hearted little bay horse, Hank, has been a game changer. He’s 19 now, but as gritty as ever and sure didn’t let Taylor down at the Timed Event. Those two made their first NFR together last year, as a team on all but four calves, and those were due to logistical impossibilities because Taylor couldn’t take Hank on a plane with him. Hank’s a warrior, and Taylor calls on him in all conditions, rain or shine. Thank you.

Lazy E

An event the magnitude of the Cinch Timed Event Championship is a tremendous undertaking, and it takes a talented team to get it done. Huge thanks to Gary McKinney, Dan Wall and the entire Lazy E Team for respecting, supporting and perpetuating the time-honored tradition of the TEC. To receive a “Cool to see Taylor doing so well” message from a busy man like Mr. McKinney Saturday night after Taylor took the overall lead truly touched me. Thank you.

Thank You

Heartfelt thanks from our family to all of you who played a part in this magical moment in the story of our lives. Taylor didn’t do it alone, and we all know it.

When the in-arena interviews and photos were done and the cowboy-savvy TEC crowd had cleared, the Cali contingent convened back upstairs to toast Taylor in the Ropers Cantina, where the Timed Event festivities all started. Jordan’s mom, Lee Ann Ketscher, bought pizza and champagne. Poor black, blue and bloody Taylor couldn’t eat any, because he can’t have gluten. Try traveling the rodeo trail with Taylor’s food allergies, and you’ll see for yourself why he’s lean for life. But he never complains. Instead, he grabs a handful of raw almonds, focuses on the next goal, and is on to the next one.

I lost my Attitude of Gratitude bracelet during the Timed Event at the Lazy E. It was my fourth one, and I’ve worn that saying on my wrist every single day since buying the first one (they break) during the rodeo in Omaha one year. I love the thought of a wide-eyed little girl or someone’s sweet grandma making that thing at home on her wrist and smiling when she looks down at that constant reminder to see the good in this wonderful life. Thank you one and all.

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